Selling Weapons to Argentina

There is, and always has been, a stench of hypocrisy around the arms trade but we grudgingly accept it because we are rather good at it and it adds considerably to the nations wealth, directly and indirectly.

Your typical left wing rant about selling arms usually does so in the comfort provided by those very sales but that is another issue.

You may have seen this report in relation to Russia and the Ukraine but the report by the House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls is well worth a read on another country of concern, Argentina.

The report has the snappy title;

Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Controls (2014): Scrutiny of the Government’s UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2012, the Government’s Quarterly Reports from October 2012 to September  2013, and the Government’s policies on arms exports and international arms control issues

Apart from a bit of nonsense about barrel bombs which spectacularly misses the point of what they are it lists Argentina as a country of concern to the committee.

I am going to extract the section on Argentina in its entirety;

156. The Committees continue to conclude that it is reprehensible that the Government,  given the relatively recent history of British ships being sunk in the Falklands War by missiles supplied by a fellow NATO member and the statement by the Argentinian Foreign Minister, as reported on 5 February 2013, regarding Argentinian control of the Falkland Islands, when he said “I don’t think it will take another 20 years”, is unwilling to lobby other Governments to make the same change in arms exports policy to Argentina as that announced by the British Government on 26 April 2012. The Committees recommend that the Government should do so. (See paragraph 541 of Volume II of this Report.)

157. The Committees recommend that the Government states in its Response which other NATO member countries, and other arms exporting countries to Argentina have now  made the same change in arms exports policy to Argentina as that announced by the  British Government on 26 April 2012. (See paragraph 542 of Volume II of this Report.)


Is there any reason we could not ask our NATO partners not to sell weapons to Argentina, at least specific types of strategically important weapons?

is it reasonable of us to ask?

I don’t think there is.

It goes on to open a bit of a mystery

58. Following the Government’s arms exports Quarterly Report for July–September 2013,
the Committees put the following questions to the Government regarding exports to

Given the current political tensions between the United Kingdom and Argentina and the Foreign Secretary’s letter to the Chairman of 26 April 2012, the Committees wish know why was an OIEL including artillery ammunition, components for artillery, components for combat naval vessels, components for decoying/countermeasure equipment, components for launching/handling/control equipment for missiles, components for launching/handling/control equipment for munitions, components for military electronic equipment, components for military guidance/navigation equipment, components for military radars, components for naval communications equipment, components for naval electrical/electronic equipment, components for naval engines, components for naval gun installations/mountings, components for naval guns, components for weapon control equipment, decoying/countermeasure equipment, general naval vessel components, launching/handling/control equipment for missiles, launching/handling/control equipment for munitions, military communications equipment, military electronic equipment, military guidance/navigation equipment, military radars, naval communications equipment, naval electrical/electronic equipment, signalling devices, smoke canisters, smoke/pyrotechnic ammunition, technology for artillery, technology for combat naval vessels, technology for decoying/countermeasure equipment, technology for general naval vessel components, technology for launching/handling/control equipment for missiles, technology for launching/handling/control equipment for munitions, technology for military communications equipment, technology for military electronic equipment, technology for military guidance/navigation equipment, technology for military radars, technology for naval communications equipment, technology for naval electrical/electronic equipment, technology for naval engines, technology for naval gun installations/mountings, technology for naval guns, technology for signalling devices, technology for smoke canisters, technology for weapon control equipment, training artillery ammunition and weapon control equipment approved?

The Government response was:

The OIEL was approved because all items in the licence are for the sole use of a non-Argentinean naval mission and are not to be re-exported or sold for export to a Third Party. We had no Criteria concerns.

Does anyone know what this means in English

Evidently, not the committee

As usual, the MoD is being evasive, unhelpful and disrespectful to a Parliamentary Committee?

They go on to ask;

The Committees recommend that the Government in its Response explains:

a) what use the non-Argentinian naval mission has for items such as artillery  ammunition and components for artillery;

b) how export approval of the above goods for export to Argentina can be  reconciled with the Business Secretary’s change of policy on arms exports to Argentina in his Written Ministerial Statement of 26 April 2012 in which he  Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Controls (2014) 47 said: “In future no licences will be granted for military or dual-use goods for military end users in Argentina unless there are compelling exceptional reasons to do so”; and

c) why the Government approved the above goods to be exported to Argentina rather than to the country of the non-Argentinian naval mission referred to.

The original issue arose in 2012.

We might contrast this with a report from Mercopress that describes the poor state of the Argentine armed forces but still, clarification is needed I think.

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The Other Monty
The Other Monty
July 23, 2014 10:57 am

I would imagine the government’s response, if frank would be:

“We do not seek to persuade our allies to introduce such a ban, as:
– the most pertinent countries, Spain, France and Israel, would, for different reasons, never agree to it;
– Argentina’s military spending is small and almost entirely taken up with payment of pensions and personnel costs, so the issue of them purchasing, integrating and deploying effective new weapon systems barely arises;
– given the above two points, we’d rather use such diplomatic leverage as we still possess to do something that might be useful and stand some chance of success.”

July 23, 2014 11:33 am

In the end stories about Argentine defence modernisation are generally there to scare readers of the Daily Mail.

The Argentine Armed Forces have been starved of funding, the last truly major procurement of what was refurbished jets was the A-4AR Fightinghawk in the 1990’s. All that was is a modernised A-4 Skyhawk with systems out of the early 80’s variant of the F-16.

Every time the Argentine Armed Forces attempt to buy anything new the funding is not released, in the end they have managed to get a few helicopters and training aircraft whilst their Army and Navy have not had any procurement of significance since the 1970’s.

As The Other Monty points out a significant proportion of what they do get in funding goes towards pay and pensions.

Their military is now more concerned with the politics of keeping the Kirchner government happy.

July 23, 2014 11:39 am

Most of the nations likely to sell arms to Argentina are not our allies such as Israel and China.

we sold them plenty of stuff last time and it did not stop us kicking their arse.

maybe if they get some decent stuff they will be stupid enough to try it again at which point we can stop all the UN diplomacy stuff and go back to kicking the preverbial out of them again.

if the Israeli fighter deal falls through again perhaps we can sell them some spitfires or sopwith camels to modernise their airforce.

July 23, 2014 12:11 pm

Really struggled to find any thing in the comments I don’t agree with. So…

“we sold them plenty of stuff last time and it did not stop us kicking their arse” thebest policy is tosell them crap, and preempt anyone else.

July 23, 2014 12:14 pm

We do have a bit of a hang up around Argentina, the truth is the world has moved on since 82, that was a time when Britain had rejected expeditionary politics and military intervention. The navy was funded for just one purpose, our bit of NATO, it had only retained an expeditionary function because the navy was clever about sneaking a dual role into its procurement. Argentinas millitary was at a high point. Role on 30 years and Britain has found a post imperial, post Cold War role. The navy is an expeditionary force on the verge of regaining a capacity in this field second only to the US, anyone who thinks we are not an agressive expeditionary nation has been asleep for a few decades. Argentina has slipped into a ecconomic and military decline that has effectively removed it as a strategic threat for decades.

The games is not the falklands and Agentina, it britian and a small enclave of nations ( France, Australia, and 4 others) playing a long games against the rest of the world for the new new world, or antartica and the southern ocean. When we started snugging all close to France and Australia it was not just about Africa or Chinese aggression in the pacific, it was about the we own antartica club.

Good reads to start are:
The Falkland Islands as a strategic gateway RUSI
Britain and the British antartic territory in the wider geopolitics of the antartic and the southern Ocean by klaus dodds and Alan Hemmings.

I think the best bit is the US stance, considering the whole continent is claimed by strategic allies. You could see the special relationship going south…… If you excuse the pun.

El Sid
El Sid
July 23, 2014 12:18 pm

All a bit weird, but trying to think of a legitimate reason for this, you have to ask first what “non-Argentinian naval mission” would be wanting our kit in Argentina. The obvious one is the USN, who conduct Gringo-Gaucho exercises any time they’re passing by, so this may be some kind of contingency authority to get the paperwork cleared should they need some spares in an emergency. The USMC might need “items such as artillery ammunition and components for artillery“. Other than that – spares for Brazil/Chile’s T22/23?

It’s amused me to see some of the commentary about the Mistrals, everyone cites the sale of Exocets to Argentina as evidence of France’s perfidy in trading with the enemy, without stopping to think where Argentina got their T42’s…..

July 23, 2014 12:21 pm

Maybe we could sell them the FRES concept. that’ll fuck ém

The Other Chris
July 23, 2014 12:39 pm

France supplied Britain with Exocet technical information as well as aircraft for UK pilots to train against (likely Super Etendard, Mirage). Also strong rumours that Exocet command codes were also supplied.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
July 23, 2014 12:55 pm

Umm aren’t they about to default on their debt again anyway, time to start seizing their naval vessels again. We should just help build the Brazilian and Chilean navies up and strengthing our military ties with those two countries.

July 23, 2014 1:16 pm

@Engineer Tom

Indeed they are, corruption and crony-ism is endemic within the Argentine political structure as it stands only making the situation worse.

Kirchner has packed the civil governmental structure with Kirchnerista supporters, this will be a huge problem for Argentina after the 2015 elections. Whilst it looks increasingly likely that the ruling Justicialist Party of Kirchner will lose the 2015 election unless they can rig it to force a run off any new government will be forced to deal with a civil political structure filled Kirchnerista and La Cámpora appointees. Those appointees are also heavily protected by Argentine employment laws despite the chaos they have caused across the infrastructure of Argentine governance.

Without political reform and a clean broom through all levels of Argentine government the situation is not particularly going to change.

With an Argentine election coming up expect fairly shrill proclamations over Las Malvinas (wherever that is ;-) )

Also for that matter with a British general election coming up at the same time expect some very silly reporting in the British tabloids in particular the Daily Mail.

July 23, 2014 2:28 pm


““we sold them plenty of stuff last time and it did not stop us kicking their arse” thebest policy is tosell them crap, and preempt anyone else.”

That was the Soviet way of thinking, selling/forcing downgraded equipment to its buffer states… though Poland and the CSSR made good what they got and then some.

Considering that the current Argentine government ordered their air force to remove proven and bought Martin-Baker ejection seats ‘because they are British’ really puts how out of wack the situation is over there.

July 23, 2014 4:12 pm

Maybe for Argentina, they should look at buying Russian, China and Pakistan gear cause it is cheap to get and easy on their budget. For example instead of a USED French Mirage F-1, they can look to Pakistan for Block 2 JF-17 or to Russia for MIG-29 or SU-27. For their Navy, they can look at getting a Kilo class SSK, Gepard class Frigate, Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate, Steregushchy-class corvette and even the Buyan-class corvette

El Sid
El Sid
July 23, 2014 5:04 pm

Buying Russian doesn’t always work out cheaper on a lifetime basis – ask the Indians about the running costs of their MiGs. And the Argies are well aware of their options – the government pushed the idea of licence-building JF-17’s at one point but the Air Force weren’t keen. It looks like they’re going to buy zero-lifed Kfir Block 60s, if the Israelis can believe they will get paid.

The idea of buying new stuff for their Navy is just fanciful – this is an Navy that only has funds to put to sea for a few days a year, the submerged time of their subs is measured in hours per year. A Buyan would just be ridiculous – I wouldn’t want to take something designed for the Caspian or Baltic out into the Southern Ocean. They want bluewater OPVs, not something that Russia really makes.

There is a practical reason for not wanting British kit – we’re unlikely to support it. As they know with their T42’s. If there’s one bit of my plane I’d want to be regularly maintained, it’s my ejection seat… The Spanish F1 deal fell down in part because we wanted them to strip out all the British bits like the Chemring chaff system.

Indeed, John Nott called the French our “greatest ally” during the Falklands, but he was not aware of how during the war, a Dassault technical team fixed three of the five Exocets they had bought :

July 23, 2014 5:25 pm

@El Sid,
What Option dose Argentina have, knowing that they can’t afford Western Military gear. Maybe something from Russia or China along those lines. I know China is trying to make inroads into South America with Military sales. Maybe China is more cheaper than Russia.

July 23, 2014 5:29 pm

Argentina’s Super Étendards are supposed to get a comprehensive upgrade soon, or possibly even a wholesale replacement, courtesy of the French.

(When the later retire their SuEs in 2015-16… Argentina will pick up all the electonics, spares and/or flyable airframes. Which means modern radar, ECM, reconnaissance, LGB and night attack capabilities.)

El Sid
El Sid
July 23, 2014 6:26 pm

You overestimate how much cash they have. They’re not buying anything new in the foreseeable future, when they haven’t got the operating budget to keep what they’ve got now in the air. That seems to have been the argument against the JF-17, the Air Force would rather buy affordable second-hand Mirage F1’s that could slot into their existing training/logistics systems and leave money for training, rather than brand new JF-17’s that needed a whole new infrastructure that they couldn’t afford to build. The Kfirs would be a bit of a stretch for them at $25-30m/plane, but at least a lot of the weapons are NATO-ish.

What option does Argentina have? If I was their defence minister I’d take the New Zealand option and give up the fantasy of trying to run a FJ fleet they can’t afford to do properly. Hard for Latino machismo to take I know, but a squadron of second-hand C-130J’s, properly maintained and trained, plus some eg truck-launched AMRAAM would suit them much better. Hercs could be used for transport, to support their fishery patrols and maybe have a couple fitted as AC-130 to discourage any drug smugglers etc and for UN deployments.

July 23, 2014 6:56 pm

“Argentina’s Super Étendards are supposed to get a comprehensive upgrade soon” – Some paint tins wash up ashore recently?

I didn’t take much notice of the World Cup final. My money – quite literally :-( – was on Iran. But I didn’t notice Kirchner sat in the Royal Box. Odd that.

re FRES – Very very good.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 23, 2014 7:14 pm


The French are our friends and have told the Argentinians that they may eventually get round to their Super E upgrades sometime (with a Gallic shrug). Now saying they may possibly fit them in mid to late 2016 :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 23, 2014 7:16 pm

The TD spam monster has changed settings, now all my posts vanish for a while.


French have said they may possibly fit those super E upgrades in sometime in 2016, possibly.

July 23, 2014 8:37 pm

The French have dragged their feet on the Super Etendard upgrades, and the UK pressured Spain into not selling 16-18 Mirage F1Ms to Argentina.
That’s why the Argies are trying to buy Kfirs from Israel

July 23, 2014 8:50 pm

@El Sid
For Argentina, I would think something along the lines of the JF-17 from Pakistan because the Block 1 cost US$15–20 million, while the Block 2 cost Block 2: US$20–25 million. The other option is to ask South Korea for the T/A-50 or F/A-50 Golden Eagle, which is priced TA-50: US$25 million and FA-50: US$30 million. Which is why the JF-17, TA/50 and F/A-50 is a Bargain for South American and Central American Air forces that want a pocket, point defense fighters on the cheap and won’t break the bank. Here’s the link

Even for their rest of the AF, I would multi Role used C-130H/J for Tanker, Transport and MPA. If they can, talk to Brazil on getting A-29 Super Tucano for COIN, Counter Drug, CAS, ISR and Pilot training. Even the BAE hawk 200 is one option that Argentina can look at as well.

As for their Navy, look to Russia for a Gepard class frigate, Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate and the Steregushchy-class corvette. If they want Submarines, they can ask Russia for a Kilo class SSK, which today is a bargain for any country with the cash and a need for one.

As for their Army, look to Russia again for used gear that they are no longer gona use and make a deal with Russia to help them start their own Russian based military industrial complex. Look at Venezuela, where they are able to make a deal to license build their own version of AK 104 & AK 103. Even buy the T-72, BMP-3 and BTR-80

July 23, 2014 9:17 pm

Latest info I could find on the Argentine Super Etendard upgrade, from Janes:

Seems like indeed this deal is far from a sure thing. Hard to tell because the timeline was always going to be 2015/16… so still early days.

July 23, 2014 9:39 pm

A certain Mr Xi Jinping has been in South America in the past week. Signing deals with the Venezuelans and Argentina.

Now the Chinese are looking at South American for new supply’s of Oil, Minerals and Food. Now how long before we start to see Chinese Military kit being offered as well as cheap cash?

July 23, 2014 10:09 pm

Isn’t Chinese arms sales to South American countries a bit of old news? There was a piece on Argentina trying to build JF-17s last year?

July 23, 2014 10:34 pm

@ Observer

I don’t think we should worry about Argentina reequipping, not least for the foreseeable future anyway.

I am surprised that we haven’t discussed this:

If the Permanent Security Council is not expanded and the World Bank not reformed, is it possible that the BRICS countries simply walk away?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 23, 2014 11:25 pm

@Thread – Connecting two thoughts, the real concern eight or ten years down the road is that China…having entrenched itself in the Argentine because of it’s resource-hungry economy…supports them in opening discussions about the future of the Antarctic; by that time the PLA could certainly provide “advisors” and “lease” equipment that would represent a very credible threat to the status quo.

Especially if the UN has packed up and gone home, as suggested by Simon257. :-(


July 24, 2014 12:34 am

I have actual had some interesting conversations with some of the more rational parts of the Argentine defence forum commentators. As I understand it the main barrier to buying Russian and Chinese equipment like fighters is from the Argentine armed forces themselves. Despite the dire state of their armed forces they regard themselves as a modern Western orientated military and the idea of buying from the East is an anathema to them.

They have relaxed that slightly more recently with some procurement of Mi171 helicopters to support their Antarctic operations:

They also evaluated the Chinese Z-11 helicopter (a copy of the Ecureuil) in 2011 and signed a licence agreement to build it:

So things are moving on in that respect, the issue is money or lack of it from a government that has shown little interest in rebuilding the military.

July 24, 2014 9:08 am

Buying Russian doesn’t always work out cheaper on a lifetime basis – ask the Indians about the running costs of their MiGs.

If I remember rightly, the MiG-21 fleet has very low lifetime running costs, because they tend to fall out of the sky very quickly.

El Sid
El Sid
July 24, 2014 10:05 am

You still completely fail to put yourselves in the shoes of the Argentines, and you still don’t grasp the concept of logistics/training. You talk about buying Soviet tanks – what exactly is their requirement for tanks?

For all the talk Argentina is arguably the least militaristic major country in the world, their economy is a mess and yet they’re only spending 0.7% of GDP on the military, less than Switzerland. They’re not going to spend $37.5m on a FA-50 (Philippines deal per your link) when $27m for a Kfir Block 60 represents the upper-end, Gucci version of their known spending plans, and ~$20m for the Spanish F1’s was what they originally were looking for. Plus they have a huge investment in Dassault kit, so their training/logistics is all geared up to that. If you recall that lifetime maintenance is typically double the sticker price for a normal air force with Western kit (and more like 4-5x the sticker price for Russian kit), the attractions are obvious of the Mirage F1 and the Kfir – which is effectively a Mirage V with F1 engine and modern avionics like an AESA radar.

If you don’t understand why Baltic combatants like the Steregushchy aren’t suitable for the Southern Ocean, then I suggest you refrain from commenting on the Argentine navy until you’ve taken a trip in a top-heavy corvette down south. The idea they could afford Gorshkovs is just daft – the similar Talwars are costing the Indians nearly US$600m apiece, unfathomable for a country that’s struggling to keep less complicated ships at sea for a few days a year.

July 24, 2014 10:47 am

With the recent South American tour by China’s President Xi Jinping agreeing to back a ‘new’ BRICS World Bank (China owns $1.26tn US Treasury Gilts along with much of the rest of the developed worlds government debt – $750bn of UK debt to so this has some merit) , deals signed so far with Brazil,Venezuela, Argentina and the US’s pet hate Cuba re trade and crucially over $11bn of currency swop with Argentina (in exchange for what guarantees? Argentina’s paper is worth less than toilet paper so what has Cristina given away?) as well as $2bn of much needed funding for railway infrastructure improvements and almost $5 billion for hydroelectric schemes,(guess which country will win those orders?) Is the US paranoid to be refocusing on the Pacific at this time? There will be no default on Argentina’s debt at this time at least but Argentina has possibly entered an ever decending spiral of reliance on China’s financing . This may be a good thing for the UK regarding the FI as China should be able to exercise a restraining hand on any ambitions any future government has or not depending on how China wants to move our focus.
Re Argentina re-arming , watch this space .

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 24, 2014 11:44 am

@Monkey – Whilst I agree that the Argentine (and a number of other Latam basket cases) are likely to become Chinese Client States, I am less sanguine than you that this will restrain their ambitions in the Southern Ocean…in the medium term a resource-hungry and assertive China is at least as likely to encourage those ambitions in pursuit of their own perceived interests as pour cold water on them…

China has scores to settle with us going back to the Opium Wars, and they are an ancient civilization with a long memory perfectly happy to consume their dish of revenge as a sorbet…


July 24, 2014 12:05 pm

Gloomy, one thing you have to remember is that their intelligentsia was exterminated during the Cultural Revolution, so anything before that time is pretty much a blank slate in the eyes of their common man. Not many know of the Opium Wars these days. Nanking on the other hand, gets drummed up very often.

Part of it is also due to their government. The Opium Wars happened to Imperial China, not the People’s Republic. When the government changes, people divorce what happened to the previous government and the current one.

July 24, 2014 3:18 pm

@El Sid,
Argentina can look at the chinese version of the F/A-50 & T/A-50 called the Hongdu L-15. Which is priced at $16 Million dollars per unit. Which I still believe that the Argentina will still go for the JF-17 because it’s a Sanction proof Aircraft and China can undermine western and Russian sales by selling it cheap and getting something in return.

July 24, 2014 6:40 pm


I do think you can’t look at the geopolitics of the South Atlantic without taking into account the long game a number of nations are playing around the antartica and the BAT. If anyone thinks china does not have half an eye on gaining access to the natural resources in the antartica peninsula and wider BAT by using Argentina and others as proxies they are probably to trusting to be allowed out on their own. Or I may be just a bit cynical ?